MALONE — Unit-to-unit communications for emergency personnel in Franklin County should be operational by the first of the year, now that Canada is on board.
A series of seven repeaters will be installed to improve radio paging from the Canadian border to the Town of Duane and align with telephone-based systems in use in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, said Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost.
The county was awarded a $149,000 grant in 2009 but had been unable to use it to make the system operational.
The Federal Communications Commission wouldn’t issue a license because Canada opposed it, fearing the radio-frequency use here would interfere with its own emergency-radio traffic as far north as Montreal.
County officials applied multiple times and, at one time, even had intervention with the FCC from former Congressman John McHugh, now U.S. secretary of the Army.
But each request was rejected because field tests found interference, which meant the county had to start the process again, requesting a different channel frequency, Provost said.
But the most recent testing, conducted in January and February, proved to Canadian authorities that use of a particular requested bandwidth was not going to jeopardize its system.
“We got our license about two months ago,” Provost said.
Morse code was sent from both the Chateaugay repeater site and the one in Bombay, “since they are the two closest to the Canadian border,” he said, adding that the signals reached only as far as Churubusco, “so it was not going into Canada.”
That allowed the county to continue installation of the microwave equipment needed for the system improvements.
“We’re right where we should be on the schedule,” the director said. “I’d say within the next 60 days, we’ll have the equipment installed.”
Provost will then order the repeater-system equipment, which will go in during the following 30 days, linking a majority of the county’s fire departments and emergency-medical personnel.
“It’s an advantage for us and will help us tremendously,” said St. Regis Falls Fire Chief Wilbur Bailey about the improved communications.
“We’re way up north, and everybody knows we could use it,” he said. “It’s time we had an upgrade, and with Ricky getting the grants for all of this, he’s really done a great job.
“Without his pushing for it and getting the grants, we probably wouldn’t have it.”
Otherwise, Bailey added, communities would have to use tax dollars to buy the equipment and technology.
Repeaters will be in the communities of Chateaugay, Malone, Duane, Dickinson, Bangor, Westville and Bombay.
Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake have their own paging systems and cannot be added into the county’s plan directly because the system relies on line-of-sight technology, which is complicated in and around the Adirondack Mountains.
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